NCAA Weekly Performers, 1/15/10 January 15, 2010 Matthew Kamalsky
An early entry candidate for the 2009 NBA Draft, Gani Lawal opted to return to school after going through the draft process and not receiving the first round guarantee he was looking for. Though some were impressed by his potential, others questioned his lack of polish –something that was only magnified at the NBA combine and in the heavily attended group workouts. Though he was well-positioned last summer with a number of major prospects opting to stay in school, he decided to hone his skills back at Georgia Tech alongside incoming freshman Derrick Favors.
While Lawal's minutes and touches have decreased marginally next to the lottery-bound Favors, he's shown development in some areas and will still have an opportunity to hear his name called in the first round this summer.
Sporting an excellent physical profile highlighted by a 7'0 wingspan, Lawal has always been lauded for his athleticism and tremendous work ethic. While those two attributes have afforded him quite a bit of success on the NCAA level, Lawal's post footwork, jump shooting, and passing lagged behind his ability to impose his will on lesser athletes in the paint.
This season, Lawal has shown marked improvement to some of those weaknesses. His post footwork looks substantially better for example, being far more assertive these days. He's still not adept at making counter moves on the block and loses control when he tries to do something overly complicated, but his ability to create space for his turnaround jumper has improved considerably. His turnaround jumper over his left shoulder has been particularly impressive, as he's shown the touch to use the glass effectively and creates separation seamlessly with his strength and leaping ability.
While Lawal is definitely showing signs of improvement in the post –as evidence by the improvement in his field goal percentage from 46.7% to 54.9% in back to the basket situations according to the data we have at our disposal, he still has plenty of room for improvement. He finishes with his left hand occasionally, but he doesn't appear entirely comfortable on that side of the rim when he can't dunk the ball.
Away from the block, Lawal remains limited. He rarely attempts a jump-shot, taking less than one per game according to our data. He has improved from the foul line, upping his percentages more than 10% from last season. Continuing to improve his range will be a key for him as he moves forward in his career.
Defensively, Lawal appears to have improved, though he doesn't always sustain his quality defensive play. He still has some issues closing out shooters too aggressively, but displays a better stance and moves better when not defending the ball. While he sometimes over-commits to helping his teammates, leaving his man open on the perimeter, and will have an occasional lapse of judgment, he appears to have added a degree of discipline to the high energy play that makes him an extremely productive rebounder, even playing next to a jumping jack in Derrick Favors. If he can learn to stay home when closing out shooters and be a bit more decisive off the ball, he could really help his draft stock.
Watching Lawal on film, it is clear that he's made some strides, though they are not overwhelmingly obvious in his numbers. In the short-term, it will be important for Lawal to show well against the high-level competition he'll face in ACC play and hone his defensive ability. His role in the NBA may be limited to doing some dirty work off the bench initially, but if he can continue to add strength and improve his jumper, he could fit into niche similar to the one that Leon Powe and Brandon Bass have played for their respective teams. [Read Full Article] NBA Combine Media Availability Interviews May 29, 2009
[Read Full Article] NCAA Weekly Performers, 2/4/09 February 4, 2009 One of the more improved prospects in the country as far as production goes, Gani Lawal is having a strong season for the Yellow Jackets, leading his struggling team in scoring, rebounding, and field-goal percentage, while more than doubling his production from last season. The 6’8 athletic power forward’s offensive role has expanded, and while he still would be described as raw in many areas, he’s shown improvement in quite a few from last season. There are not many players in college basketball who offer his combination of length, athleticism and activity level at the power forward position, which makes it fairly easy to envision him developing into a useful complimentary NBA player as he develops down the road.
Looking at his post game, Lawal has a multitude of problems right now, but also shows flashes of great promise at times. The area Lawal is lacking the most in right now is instincts and overall comfort level, something that’s seen clearly in back-to-the-basket situations, especially when opposing teams crowd the center of the court and offer weak-side help on him. He seems to get flustered in these situations, leading to some strange decisions, turning into double teams, getting confused with his footwork, forcing low percentage shots, etc.
Lawal’s footwork on the block is certainly a problem area, but in analyzing his game closely, it appears a lot of his struggles are on the mental side of the game, as when he gets the ball in rhythm and/or with his defender isolated on an island in the post, he actually has shown nimble feet, quick decisions, and crisp post moves at times. When the game gets slowed down and defenses collapse, however, those results are a rare occurrence.
Looking at the rest of his offensive game, Lawal is clearly a work in progress, as his face-up game is highly unreliable, specifically his mid-range jumper (as evidenced by his poor 55% FT shooting). The form on his jump shot is very inconsistent, his form is all over the place, he’s prone to pulling the string, drifting his arm to the right, he holds his guiding hand up too long, leading to poorly aimed shots, his balance is usually off, he fades away unnecessarily, and he just generally lacks touch. Working on this area of his game should be a very high priority, as adding a reliable 15-foot jumper would make him a much more dynamic player and very much ease his transition to the next level.
Lawal isn’t much of an off-the-dribble, face-up player at this stage either, however he’s excellent attacking the rim on cuts or on the offensive glass, showing a very high motor and always getting himself into good position. Lawal’s rebounding in general is vastly improved from last season, up a remarkable 4.4 rebounds per 40 minutes pace adjusted (from 7.6 to 12.0), placing him just inside the top 25 in our database. On cuts and the offensive glass, Lawal’s hands and touch are a bit inconsistent, and it sometimes leads to him not being able to smoothly catch-and-finish, preventing him from taking full advantage of his athleticism in stride.
On the defensive end, Lawal is a pesky post defender, using his body and length well, playing a physical and fairly fundamentally sound game, however he’s prone to giving up too much position at times, as he could probably use a little more lower body and base strength. On the perimeter, while Lawal is both active and attentive, he gives up too much space to compensate for his lack of a strong defensive stance, and can be taken off the dribble as well. It’s tough to judge his lateral quickness given his fundamental deficiencies, but he does show flashes of keeping up with guards off pick-and-roll switches at times, leading us to believe his lateral quickness would be a strength if properly honed.
Looking towards the future, Lawal is still very much a work in progress, but the learning curve he’s shown this season is definitely very encouraging. He will likely be tempted to put his name in the draft this season, especially with Derrick Favors arriving on campus next season, however his game would likely greatly benefit from another season in college, and it’s hard to see him being an impact NBA player in the short term future, even though he clearly has excellent potential. [Read Full Article] Top NBA Draft Prospects in the ACC (Part One: #1-5) October 4, 2008 Gani Lawal was relatively productive in small doses last season for the Yellow Jackets and will have the opportunity to bolster those numbers this season with extended playing time. Shooting an impressive 57% from the field, he was able to capitalize on the relatively small amount of opportunities he was able to create for himself due to his average skill-level. Looking at his imposing physical tools combined with his great attitude, though, it’s easy to see why you’re looking at a player with quite a bit of intrigue. Lawal was one of the top performers at the Adidas Nations camp in Dallas this summer, impressing quite a few NBA scouts in attendance and showing that he could very well be on his way to a breakout sophomore season, despite only averaging 7 points in 17 minutes last year.
Although Lawal stands only 6’8, he is able to make up for his lack of ideal height with his outstanding wingspan (reportedly 7’1) and outstanding body. At 233 pounds, he has a frame that is plenty capable of adding more weight if desired. He is a simply physically imposing player who is able to compensate for his lack of height with terrific athleticism and incredibly hard play.
The main selling point that Lawal offers as a prospect revolves around the little things that he brings to the table. He possesses an outstanding motor, usually playing harder than anyone else on the floor. The Georgia native is outstanding running the floor, extremely quick off his feet, posts incredibly hard, and uses his body to play the role of enforcer on the defensive end. He appears to be an absolute coach’s dream, and a player who constantly leads by example with his excellent effort.
Offensively, Lawal shows small flashes of developing post moves, but is still extremely raw. It is quite easy to see that the footwork for the moves that he attempts to do is quite unnatural, resulting in a large amount of traveling calls against the big man. Though he favors going towards his right shoulder and shows very little fluidity, Lawal is fairly efficient in the post due to the fact that he wisely sticks to his strengths for the most part, scoring primarily off cuts to the basket and offensive rebounds. Showing off big, soft hands, a decent touch with his right hand, the ability to draw fouls at an excellent rate, and all the explosiveness needed to go up and finish plays around the rim, he can be very productive in a garbage-man type role. Still quite raw, he leaves room for optimism in terms of his long term development in the pivot.
Facing the basket, Lawal is a long ways away from being a consistent threat. He looks incredibly awkward shooting the ball with very loose mechanics, and didn’t appear to have much confidence in his jumper last season, as evidenced by the 49.5% he shot from the free throw line. When driving to the basket with his right hand, he exhibited a very nice first step and finished well, but did not have as much luck going towards his left. Certainly a work in progress in terms of his all-around skill-level, it will be interesting to see what kind of progress Lawal can make on this part of his game.
On the defensive end, Lawal does a very nice job of holding his own ground on the blocks and altering shots with his length. More of a low post defender, he does a nice job of rotating well to cut off opposing penetrators. On the other hand, Gani struggles a bit when guarding defenders facing the basket, due to his poor fundamentals in terms of closing out and a very upright stance. Quite surprinsgly, Lawal is a fairly marginal rebounded for a player that possesses such great physical tools and a blue collar type of game.
Lawal is a player who showed nice flashes of potential last season as a freshman, but will need to build upon that in terms of productivity if he hopes to solidify himself as an immediate draft prospect. The physical package and long term upside that he offers makes him unique amongst most college forwards and will certainly make him a player that scouts will be paying close attention to this season. Now it is up to him so show NBA personnel how quickly he is ready to take his game to the next level. [Read Full Article] Roundball Classic: Game Player Breakdowns April 5, 2007 After some felt that his performance in the McDonald’s game was a fluke, Lawal came out and proved all of his critics wrong yet again with his performance in the Roundball game. He got it done on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor, with his nonstop motor and incredibly active style of play. The Norcross HS star finished just about everything he touched inside of the paint, while exerting more effort then any other big man the event had to offer. His “no fear” style of play, athleticism, and length will surely make him a rotation player next year at GT, despite his underdeveloped skill set. [Read Full Article] Roundball Classic Practices: Day Two April 3, 2007 While the Georgia Tech recruit is certainly not the most skilled big man here at Roundball, there has not been another post here in Chicago who has played with the passion and intensity that he has. He has run the floor and shown a motor unlike any other player down low in this event, never giving up on a loose ball and always finding himself getting his hands on the ball around the rim. His excellent hands and ability to finish inside have made him a favorite of the East guards, even though he is lacking incredibly in terms of pure talent. Look for Gani to take his passionate play to Atlanta next year, where he will be able to contribute next year for the Yellow Jackets. [Read Full Article] Roundball Classic Practices: Day One April 2, 2007 The freak athlete from Georgia carried over his gritty play from the McDonald’s game into the practice sessions at Roundball, doing every little thing you’d like to see out of a big man. He ran the floor well, did a good job catching the ball, and made his presence felt on the defensive end. The guards he teamed with had no problem getting him the rock inside, as he caught everything and normally finished with an emphatic slam dunk. Lawal still offers very little in terms of actual low post moves, but the potential is surely there for him and he is clearly one of the players with the most to offer in terms of NBA potential here at the Roundball. [Read Full Article] 2007 McDonald's All America Game: Player Breakdowns March 29, 2007 Another one of the top performers of the night for the East was their extremely long and athletic big man Gani Lawal, who just wanted to do the dirty work for them all game long. No one played harder in Louisville, whether it was running the floor like a madman, being incredibly active on the glass, playing very strong defense, or trying to fight for position inside with Michael Beasley. 12 rebounds (8 offensive) in 18 minutes should give you an indication of the kind of nose for the ball that Lawal has, and when combined with his incredible wingspan and athleticism, we’re talking about a guy who can have a real impact in his career at Georgia Tech.
He runs the floor extremely well, has good, strong hands, and seems to be a reliable target to throw the ball to for lobs and easy finishes. He’s not the kind of guy that wants to get pretty around the hoop, he’ll just go up and dunk it if given the opportunity to. When he tries to start creating offense for himself is when things start getting murky for him. He doesn’t look to be the most polished guy in the world by any stretch, but has reportedly only been playing basketball for a few years now. Numerous people we know have gone out of their way to tell us how highly they think of Lawal’s attitude, character and work ethic, and that alone makes us think he’s got a pretty good chance to develop into an NBA prospect down the road. [Read Full Article] McDonald's All America Game Practices: Day Two March 27, 2007 Lawal will be the next in the line of long, athletic big men that Paul Hewitt has been able to bring into Georgia Tech. His offensive game has improved mightily over the last year, although he is still not a finished product by any means. The athletic big showed how much he is able to change the game in a short period of time on one stretch where he pinned a Nolan Smith breakaway dunk attempt on one end, only to run the floor down to the other and posterize Patrick Patterson with a vicious dunk. While Gani may not contribute a double-double at GT from day one, the potential and work ethic is certainly there for him to do so down the line. [Read Full Article]